“No Outside” for Socially Engaged Art Practices? The Reception of the Aesthetic Regime of Art and Its Frequent Malfunctions in Hong Kong

Frank Vigneron

Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art; Jul/Aug2013, Vol. 12 Issue 4

No Outside For Art Making

During a roundtable titled Whose History? (organized by the Asia Art Archive during ARTHK12 on May 17, 2012), Marian Pastor Roces, a critic and independent curator from the Philippines, gave a paper on the limits of art history and how a certain tradition of this discipline—a history dominated by “period styles” that, as early as the 1970s, began to come under criticism—cannot be used to make sense of recent developments within the field of visual art. Roces emphasized that artists need to be fully engaged in the context of what she termed “the structures of power"; she argued that there is “no outside position” and that “radicalism must be waged within.”1 The idea of such engagement has been an important part of many art practices since the origins of conceptual art in Euro-America in the late 1960s and, particularly, in the origins of institutional critique. It is true that present-day artists can find their place anywhere, and their art practices are often “delocated”—that is, they are made just as much for the art gallery and the museum as for the World Wide Web, the street, the shopping mall, or the most remote locations outside of urban spaces.

During the same roundtable, Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, in Madrid, told the audience an anecdote taken from his experience in Spain. He described how participants in a workshop organized by the members of the education services of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía arranged a demonstration against the World Bank. Considering that the participants in that demonstration were working within an event organized by the museum, it was apparently seen by the Spanish mass media as another “art event,” something considered to be, according to Borja-Villel, merely a radical form of tourist attraction. He concluded by saying that “nothing happened” as a result. Mention of this demonstration did not appear in any of the cultural or political sections of Spanish newspaper, but only in those dedicated to fashion and anything perceived as “cool.” When Korean farmers confronted the Hong Kong police during the G7 of 2005, it was presented as political news and a clear sign of the extremely serious degradations of the livelihood of many social groups caused by the savagely neoliberal forms of economic globalization prevalent around the world. When artists coming out of a museum organize a demonstration against the World Bank, it is seen as slightly ridiculous, no matter how personally involved the participants are with these issues. One of the dangers to the reception by the public at large of the idea of a “no outside” for art practices resides precisely in these trivializing representations.

These trivializing representations raise a question concerning the representation of the forms of art practices I will call here “socially engaged.” One of the questions addressed here will be: How can artists engaged in these forms of art escape the effects of trivialization imposed upon them by the traditional mass media, like the printed press and television? Only a certain kind of press would refrain from trivializing such events: the specialized art press that is read by a fairly small portion of the educated population of large urban centres and is not always accessible to a majority of readers, for a multitude of reasons. The other type of press, whose owners seem to believe that only the most simplistic type of entertainment makes for good news, define their action and their usefulness increasingly through the demands of the financial bottom line. With this alternative, it becomes extremely difficult for art practitioners to ask the proper questions about the societies we live in, let alone try to answer these questions, because their practices tend to be misrepresented.

Socially Engaged Art Practices and Trivialization

Are socially engaged art practices systematically trivialized in Hong Kong? Likely not. Hong Kong does not “enjoy” the same kind of newspapers as countries like the UK, in particular, where the tabloid press has been for many decades the source of much trivialization of art practices that do not belong to the innocuous forms of artwork from the past. An example of such trivialization was the front page of the Daily Mirror, in the 1970s, in which a sculpture conceived by the Minimalist artist Carl Andre that consisted of a line of bricks on the floor, was acquired by the Tate Museum for what was then a hefty sum of money. The Daily Mirror described this purchase as an insult to the British taxpayer; the title, in large bold fonts, read “What a Load of Rubbish.” Such insulting statements are seldom so violent in a place like Hong Kong where the outrage would more often be about public display of nudity than about public expenditure felt as excessive. A recent exception to this would be references made by the Hong Kong press to the arrest and prosecution of Ai Weiwei in 2011, but the seriousness of the questions he posed about the state of the mainland Chinese political system and the culture of corruption any one-party system will always generate, as well as the growing ferocity of the mainland Chinese authorities in trying to keep under wrap democratic activism, made of him a topic that can be addressed in seriousness by all media precisely because it did not have to be approached in terms of art practices.

Nevertheless, in Hong Kong there can still be some minor manifestations
of the spirit of trivialization that seems to be very difficult to eradicate. I do not want to criticize The Works, the only television program in Hong Kong dedicated to the arts; all their reports on art activities in the city are of the highest quality, and we must be grateful to Radio Television Hong Kong for dedicating an important part of their resources to this domain (even French television, for instance, is remarkably poor in reporting current events in the arts). But even the producers and reporters of visual art events on The Works are not always entirely free of a certain tendency to trivialize, even if, thankfully, I could recognize only one example of that tendency in one of the reports they made in 2010 about the exhibition City-O-Rama, organized by MAP Office.

With video works representing a wide variety of artists whose work was exhibited in the stalls of street merchants in the SOHO and Central areas of Hong Kong island, MAP Office wanted to engage with a public not usually adept at looking out for these forms of art, creating a form of socially engaged art. They also tried to attract the art crowd—those more likely to haunt the clean air-conditioned spaces of galleries like Gagosian—to environments they are less likely to frequent in the pursuit of experiencing art. The works were not made according to a unifying theme, MAP Office preferring the artists to create their own questions and forms, or even to show older artworks. For example, Compression—Fern (face), made in 1970 by the American artist Denis Oppenheim, was described in the following way: “In this video, the carnivorous human being obliterates a gentle fern delivering a violent message. The interplay between the plant that has been an integral part of the earth’s resources and the homo sapiens who have been a destroyer and consumer is particularly poignant in this violent crushing of the fern. This plain plant is a symbol of all peaceful herbivore species, but the Homo sapiens is destroying every single specimen in its path. Of particular significance is the artist here only using one hand instead of two to illustrate his power against nature.”2 Another American artist, Bill Viola, showed a video made in 1989, which was described by MAP Office this way, “One of Viola’s early videos, Reflecting Pool, explores the apparent static nature of time. The protagonist—the artist—emerges from a dense forest and approaches the edge of a pool. There, he prepares to make a powerful jump but as he stands up in the air, something unexpected happens. For the artist, water is a symbol of life and rebirth, that continues to ripple and undulate after our passage.”3

The Works, generally aired on Tuesday evenings, showed City-O-Rama with the participating artists and curators explaining their positions. One of the stall owners, a lady selling flowers in front of the monitor showing Compression—Fern (face), was also interviewed, and she reacted with a very open and accepting attitude: “I love engaging in such crazy activities. These two artists are mad, so it’s fun. It’s all right if they put the installation here. I can just let my customers watch.”4 The original Cantonese is of course much more animated than the slightly more serious English translation offered in subtitles by the TV show. Obviously, it is important to keep one’s sense of humour, and it is true that this quote was the unselfconscious and endearing reaction of the stall owner, but this brief interview also falls into the tactics of trivialization that the traditional mass media often cannot help reverting to. The use of the term sou—translated as “crazy” in the subtitles—to describe the two artists of MAP Office also can be translated as “odd” or “whacky” in English, and it immediately put the whole project on a level of “fun” that sounded much like the response by the Madrid press to the anti-World Bank demonstration by the Reina Sofía Museum group.

The reaction of the stall owner is also an indication that the cultural representation of the artist in the Hong Kong doxa is still one defined by a certain kind of cultural tradition, one that belongs just as much to the Chinese as to the Euro-American cultures—the artist as not quite right in the head and therefore both amusing and easy to dismiss. From painters like Bada Shanren [Zhu Da] (1626–1705) and Xu Wei (1521–93) to poets like
Li Bai (701–62) and Han Shan (ninth century), the crazed artist is just as familiar to the Chinese as Salvador Dali or Lord Byron is to Euro-Americans. Ai Weiwei could have been dismissed just as easily in this context, but he was not, for the reasons already cited. The reaction of the stall owner, amused and quite clearly unconcerned by the artwork visible in her stall (she actually said that “it doesn’t hurt,” which implies that it doesn’t matter, really), is another, maybe more severe, obstacle to the “no outside” for art practices: if the reception to socially engaged art practices is mild amusement and actual lack of interest, something is not working, not being communicated.

Socially Engaged Art Practices as Dissensus

If the word “education” appears in the context of socially engaged art practices, it often will provoke sighs of disappointment and fatigue. Educating the public about contemporary art practices always seems to be a dead end because the idea of education creates images of interminable hours listening to pontificating teachers. Similarly, this traditional type of education also involves the idea that what is being taught is superior to what the students might already know. In the case of contemporary art, such education is tantamount to saying that other manifestations of culture, like popular music, comic books, or soap operas on TV, are not as good, not as important, and need to give way to “higher” forms of human expression such as contemporary art.
Needless to say, this is the best way to frighten away any culturally curious person and, since we are not talking about traditional forms of education where assessment is essential (as in schools and universities where students need to earn a degree), it might be beneficial to consider other methods like the one explored by Jacques Rancière in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, the idea of universal education. His theory of education is based on a variety of missing links and was first created by the early-nineteenth-century French teacher Joseph Jacotot, who managed to “teach” French to non-French speaking pupils by simply offering them a bilingual edition of François Fénelon’s Télémaque and asking them to compare the two versions. Jacotot’s work was based on the idea—one also defended by Rancière throughout his works—that all people are in possession of equal mental capacities. If we follow Rancière, it would be interesting to argue that Joseph Jacotot’s “universal teaching” would be the best way to make available to more people the possibilities of socially engaged art practices. Based on this idea of universal education, Jacotot, like Joseph Beuys over a century later, believed that anyone could be an artist.
In socially engaged art practices, where presenting the artworks and educating the viewers within the idea of universal education are one and the same, the situations made possible by the artists are sparking something new, something that was not planned in advance by either the artists or the spectators. As we shall see, this is the promise of what Rancière calls the aesthetic regime, as opposed to what he calls the representative regime. While the representative regime relies on inequality—the artist being seen as superior to the spectator and knowing all the implications of meaning in his or her work—the aesthetic regime relies on equality—artists and spectators are equal to the point where the artist does not know how the spectator will interpret the artwork.

This conception of art can be found in what Rancière refers to as “dissensus,” a movement that fragments the community by revealing what had been previously hidden. Dissensus operates on the decisions made by various institutions to include or exclude certain social groups and, therefore, on what can be considered serious or trivial. Dissensus therefore functions on two levels by questioning who counts as a subject worthy of taking part and what is worthy of being talked about.5 In politics, dissensus poses the question about who is competent about what. For instance, the position of traditional art critics and their voice of authority, based on the claimed superiority of their own experience of art, must be revised in disssensus as such assumptions are based on inequality and therefore useless within the project of universal education. Dissensus also questions the limits between the private and the public and always turns exhibition spaces into locations of dispute: this is what happens, for example, when artists and curators decide to avoid the traditional venues for art—the museum or gallery—and try to occupy other sites and circumstances.
Thus, artists who use the space of a gallery in order to integrate it with its surrounding area, or artists who put artworks outside any institutional space are examples of dissensus made to “rupture given relations between things and meanings and, inversely, invent novel relationships between things and meanings that were previously unrelated.”6 Both have political import as long as they have not been trivialized into forms of innocuous entertainment. Because there is “no direct cause-effect relationship . . . between the intention realized in an art performance and a capacity for political subjectivation,”7 there is a need for a degree of mediation between art practices and the majority of spectators, but these mediations need to be made by people who are cognizant of the intent of the artist and of the political implications of such dissensual practices. This is the problem with the non-specialized press, whose writers are generally unprepared to understand these reflections about art as dissensus, even in its most basic form, and who tend to transform everything into the worst kind of consensus, that is, one that does not even attempt to “question the self- evidence of the visible’’8 and forces everyone to accept the political and social status quo even when it goes against the eudemonic ethics generally defended by socially engaged art practices.

In this context, even the latest Christopher Nolan Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), is presented as something that carries a political message (and if it does, it is a very simplistic one, and it gets even further trivialized by its own commercial context of distribution), while socially engaged art practices are barely positioned at the same level. If artists are thinking and integrating into their practices these reflections, they are unfortunately turned into irrelevant games and emptied of their significance through the kind of superficial reporting that is the only access point made available to those who are not aware of the existence of Rancière’s aesthetic regime. As long as primary and secondary school education remains mainly skill-based and does not address the possibility of art as dissensus, and as long as journalists in the non-specialized press turn these acts into entertainment (thus limiting the importance of art to a descriptive regime and its complete separation with the everyday), then artists will always be represented as working “outside.”

Socially Engaged Art Practices as Stimulus

The “no outside” paradigm is the obvious context for making contemporary art today, just as it is true that art making has become decentered: the old centre(s) of art making have made way for a multiplicity of other situations where the old-fashioned centre/periphery relationship no longer makes any sense. If making art was all that mattered, we could then believe that the aesthetic regime conceived of by Rancière has come into being and is creating a near-utopia of expression and exchange. But art must rely on other vectors for its existence, and it is in the context of showing art, and writing and talking about art, that difficulties emerge that put the “no outside” paradigm into question. Are socially engaged art practitioners working inside the system of art? Probably so, as far as they are concerned— they are convinced of the equality between artist and spectator, but, in this case, the perception of the artwork is also made by institutions that do not accept the notion of equality. The traditional mass media—press and television—still very much rely on the teacher/student relationship that is denounced by Rancière: the journalist “knows,” and the spectator admiringly receives and accepts the information.

It is in this context of passive receivership that the “no outside” paradigm becomes problematic, and one symptom can be found in the frequently haughty tone columnists and journalists without any contemporary art background often take. The solution may reside in the recourse to non-traditional mass media—the blog and cyberspace in general would exemplify this locus of an interactive reception of socially engaged art practices. Unfortunately, the use of non-traditional mass media comes with a whole new range of difficulties that also put into question the “no outside” paradigm. When the traditional mass media trivializes contemporary art practices, like the ones that might fit Rancière’s aesthetic regime, the new non-traditional mass media existing in a network of exchanges is the place where “anything goes,” but often in a fairly negative way. There, in the non-traditional mass media nothing is certain, and if that situation of uncertainty can create very productive forms of misreading, it can also lead to such profound misunderstandings that communication becomes its own worst enemy; the whole difference between creative imagination, positive and productive of new cultural arrangements, on the one hand, and destructive gossip, on the other, can be negative and lead to hatred and silence. But other spaces, like the street and even certain kinds of galleries where the project of undermining institutional stultification is enacted, may be the most efficient way to create the conditions of Rancière and Jacotot’s notion of universal education.
Socially engaged art is generally a part of the universal education and the aesthetic regime. Thus, spectators are left to negotiate meaning with the data provided by the artwork itself, letting it interact with his or her culture, language, and social background. This also allows the possibility of an absence of reaction: if the artwork offers no common ground with the experience of the spectator, as so often happens in a global context when exhibiting art, it is possible that the artwork might not “speak” to the spectator, and this has to be accepted in some cases, but chances are this will not happen very often, since the variants of interpretation are endless.

To look specifically at Hong Kong, the problem is that since art education, especially in secondary schools, is clearly skill-based, very few people are ready to accept the extreme flexibility of perception of the aesthetic regime described earlier. To be able to appreciate socially engaged art, one needs to eschew as much as possible the demands of the representative regime. In the case of the actions by the art collective Wooferten, as we shall see, it would be interesting to know who actually enjoyed these works.
The Wooferten collective, which received funding from the Hong Kong Art Development Council for a year and established itself in the Shanghai Street Artspace in Yau Ma Tei, has made its mission to act in the domain of socially engaged art practices. One of the seven curated exhibitions it has planned for its tenure at the Shanghai Street Artspace was titled Yaumatei Self-Rescue Project and Demonstration Exhibition—the Chinese title is Attacking Yau Ma Tei! Self-Rescue Project and Demonstration Exhibition— was organized in April 2012 and involved a group of young artists who each decided on a strategy to enact the project of the show. On the collective’s Web site, where the names of the founding members are glaringly absent, the Wooferten collective thus describes its mission:

Wooferten is a non-profit art organization funded by Hong Kong Art Development Council. We are based at Shanghai Street Artspace in Yaumatei, an aging grass-root community and neighbourhood. Formed by a group of like-minded artists, curators, critics, researchers, educators, Woofer Ten aims at introducing a lively conception of contemporary art engaging the community. Therefore, instead of attempting an out-of-place white cube arty gallery, Woofer Ten moulds itself more like a community centre, a platform for art projects to explore new approaches in bridging the community and art making. Woofer Ten treasures the participation of our neighbouring community and audiences, and sees its art programs as creative interventions upon our community and society at large. Exhibitions will change from month to month, alongside with plenty of ad hoc activities such as performances, guide tours, workshops, talks, screenings etc., offering the public not just experimental contemporary art and curating, but also art that are close to our everyday life and with social-political relevance.9

The collective adopted “guerilla tactics” to counter the destructive ways used by the large developers in Hong Kong and, in particular, how the government-funded Urban Renewal Authorities often seem to play an active role in the systematic modification—others would say eradication—of the local environment: 

The project named itself “self-rescue” for it proposes to spread a self-help attitude, giving out suggestion to the Kai-fong (neighborhood community) of Yau Ma Tei (as well as beyond), some means to rebel against the blind development now prevailing in Hong Kong.

We encourage the public to not just appreciate, to cherish their community, but also through their action and participation to help preserve all the precious things that constituted the lively district. Our everyday livelihoods are in fact being subjected to more and more control as urban renewal joined hands with developers, allowing giant entrepreneurs sprawling crawls [sic] affecting almost every aspects of our daily lives. We surely do not have any real “weapons” to fight against them, but why not do something and start our resistance with our bare hands?10

One of the four events organized during the Yaumatei Self-Rescue Project and Demonstration Exhibition was the partial reconstruction of the stall of a painter called Mr. Fung who specialized in portrait making, a profession that has all but disappeared in the rest of Hong Kong and is used as an alternative to portrait photography. The street-stall of Mr. Fung that was once located just a block away from Wooferten in Shanghai Street had recently been partially demolished in one of the acts that are often presented as a desire to “clean up” an area of its original inhabitants. The son of the painter lent photos and some of his father’s personal items for the exhibition, and Mr. Fung himself was present at the opening of the exhibition. The desire of the artists involved, and that of Wooferten in particular, was clearly to abolish the traditional limits between artists and the public, high and low culture, and of what Rancière proposes as limitations to the idea of equality.

Emancipation and Outreach Programs

Although they are in my view the most effective solutions for emancipation, punctual actions like the ones created by Wooferten cannot necessarily be sustained since, unfortunately, their funding comes from a government source (the Hong Kong Arts Development Council) and is not likely to continue forever. But punctual actions must continue in a variety of formats and engage a variety of artists and other art collectives whose actions can be compared to the tactics imagined by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life. In de Certeau’s propositions, strategies are formulated and enacted from locations of power and are based on the idea of competition while establishing the boundaries of acceptable practices. Strategies set norms and conventions by working with finite ideas and always aim at conclusive forms. That is the way museums function, for instance, by establishing once and for all what deserves to be seen as art. De Certeau would see the way Wooferten functions as a tactic being used to achieve immediate or short-term aims. They are not enacted in specific locations or institutions and always appear within the gaps of conventional thought and patterns of everyday life.11 It would be unfair to consider the two projects created by M+, the “museum plus” of visual culture for the future Kowloon Cultural District, in Yau Ma Tei, also fall squarely in the category of the strategy. Even though it would be hard to maintain that M+ is not a museum institution—in spite of all its efforts not to fall into that specific rut—with some of its inherent restrictions, its creators are trying to create something else where the possibilities of tactics, like those enacted by small groups like Wooferten, will still be possible.

But what about forms of socially engaged art that seem to belong to both tactics and strategies? Tactics are something conceived and enacted by individuals or very small collectives in the context of very precise and punctual events (the way Wooferten enrolled the inhabitants of a neighbourhood to act against the destruction waged on their streets by big developers in Hong Kong) and strategies, something designed and enacted on a much larger scale by institutions related to the seats of power, like the Hong Kong government. Commissioned by M+ to house Cantonese performance opera, this traditional temporary bamboo theatre, of a type still visible from time to time in other areas of Hong Kong during traditional Chinese festivals (with sometimes theatrical troops performing from outside of Hong Kong), was also the occasion to celebrate other forms of popular culture such as the cinema. This bamboo theatre was constructed by an itinerant Chinese opera troupe the way it had been traditionally made for many decades in Hong Kong, and for centuries on the mainland. Such events, with generally free-of-charge performances, are particularly popular during the Hungry Ghosts Festival around the fifteenth night of the seventh lunar month, generally in August. Local and mainland Chinese troupes are invited by local associations (sometimes of non-Cantonese speaking groups from Fujian or Chaozhou who can thus enjoy Chinese theatre in their own dialects) to perform for the dead and for the living. Because hiring these theatre troupes is getting much more expensive, it is unfortunately a fast disappearing tradition in Hong Kong. The main organizer, the West Kowloon Cultural District authorities, wanted to remind the people of Hong Kong that a theatre dedicated to Chinese opera in all its forms would be a permanent and very prestigious fixture of this area in a few years’ time. It was also the purpose of M+, whose building is supposed to be finished around 2017, to remind the Hong Kong public of its participation in all of what the future West Kowloon Cultural District will have to offer.
As far as the visual arts are concerned, the most obvious mark of M+’s involvement in this operation was to invite such veteran artists as Gaylord Chan, Chu Hing-wah, and Michael Wolf to create new artworks for the occasion. This might actually be a good indication of the sort of activities this institution will be involved in (and already is, albeit as yet without a permanent home): preservation and education about forms of art that are still represented as of interest to a minority in Hong Kong’s population.

More clearly part of a socially engaged practice, Mobile M+ was a project about disseminating artwork in the streets and the easily accessed spaces of Yau Ma Tei that one would generally only be encountered in the pristine rooms of a museum. Closer to the ideas of City-O-Rama, viewers were able to see installations (like the one by Leung Mee-ping) as well as interactive performances like the Pak Sheung-chuen’s. As was the case with City-O- Rama, is exhibiting in the street sufficient to be seen as a socially engaged
art practice and be accepted by social groups generally not interested in contemporary art practices? Probably not. In many ways, these artworks put on display in the streets might even be more confusing for the public unless the curators and/or artists are more explicit, like Pak Sheung-chuen. To address the question of what kind of outreach educational programs could propose, it is important to remember that the main difficulty is not to demean those who would access these programs. The issue here is one of emancipation, to use also the vocabulary of Rancière, and instead of merely providing information, which is necessary to a certain degree, it is more important to awaken in those who generally have no access to any form of contemporary art (and especially socially engaged forms) a form of curiosity that would let them take “possession” of these artworks and art practices. It is, in fact, about encouraging personal interpretation in order to avoid the most common kinds of reactions such as “I don’t know” or “this is stupid.”

Susan Sontag famously and rightly opposed a certain kind of elucidation for artworks in an article titled "Against Interpretation": “The interpreter says, ‘Look don’t you see that X is really—or, really means—A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C’?”12 Unfortunately, her text is far too what I would call “Westernocentrist” and assumes that any artwork can immediately be understood by spectators when they are left alone with their own reception of the work. This position basically assumes that anyone from any cultural background could construct personal interpretations about any artwork; an impossible proposition in a globalized art world where one can encounter artworks and art practices from cultures so different that most of its subtext can remain opaque. In the Mong Kok and West Kowloon districts of Hong Kong, for instance, where the activities of M+ have been increasingly frequent, a large portion of the people who have encountered these art events came in contact with forms of art whose origins can be traced to a multitude of unrelated cultural sources: the national Chinese culture, and the infra-national Hong Kong cultures, but also other forms of national cultures (many of them having Euro-American descent) and supra-national cultures (like “European” or “Asian”). This represents far too rich a field of cultural interaction to be simply taken at face value without losing so much meaning that it becomes so many empty gestures; this situation needs the awakening of certain forms of curiosity.

As long as we expect the public—the people in the street—to possess the kind of formative process art education generally offers nowadays (from primary to secondary school and, I am sorry to say, all the way through tertiary education, the only hope being that postgraduate studies thankfully escapes the traps of such systems), the way art education is practiced in schools and universities will simply reinforce the inequality that makes accepting the forms of socially engaged art we have discussed so difficult. An emancipatory type of education cannot, unfortunately, be found in the specialized press. Anyone who has read magazines like Artforum or Documents sur l’art would know that they are not the kinds of reading anyone can follow, and as much as it would be tempting to rely on Rancière’s notion of equality here, it remains that a certain kind of education, namely, the type one has access to in higher education, is necessary to understand these texts. And even more accessible publications, like Beaux-Arts in France, Art in America, or the many often short-lived publications Hong Kong has known (Muse magazine for instance) require a type of curiosity on the part of readers that is often stifled and superseded by the much more readily available traditional mass media. What is needed, therefore, is more outreach programs, the kinds that exist in between the strategies and tactics that will hopefully offered by institutions like M+, but also more straightforward tactics in the form of actions like Wooferten or Pak Sheung-chuen’s L (this last one also blurring the line between the institutional strategies—this was performed during an M+ curated event—and the personal tactic; this was a performance presented within the larger projects of this artist).

L is an interlinked and multi-part urban intervention, consisting of performance, exhibition, and documentation. As an extension of Pak’s earlier publication 2011()10()24 made up of diary notes and sketches, it questions the role of art in improving everyday life as it mediates between the borders of spirituality, social interaction, and daily living. Throughout the exhibition period, Pak disseminates “artistic gestures” to the public by orchestrating everyday scenarios in the form of: street promotions of self- enhancement courses based on artistic concepts around Temple Street; night classes aimed at “tired white-collar workers”; and collation of ideas from the classes and Pak’s research, promotion and delivery of his creative ideas—in the form of three publications and exhibition in neighborhood shops.”13

As Lars Nitve, executive director of M+, made clear from the outset, this institution would take special care to create outreach programs that will extend the benefits of having access to artists and art that stratum of Hong Kong society generally have not been offered previously. Now that M+ has already established its importance in the region as a museum, thanks to the donation of one of the most important collectors of contemporary Chinese art, Uli Sigg, there is little doubt that it will play an increasingly important role in Hong Kong, China, and the rest of Asia. Currently, it is impossible to know what forms these outreach programs will take. But there is a large measure of hope: with the Sigg donation, M+ already has a solid reputation as a repository of art, and Lars Nitve himself was involved with successful outreach programs during his tenure at Tate Modern in London. In an impressively positive description of the involvement of Tate Modern in outreach, published as part of a report titled Museums & Galleries: Creative Engagement, Ricky Burdett provides a long list of activities designed by this institution. Published in March 2004, the report “uses case studies to illustrate how national museums, libraries, and archives engage in a huge range of innovative activities with different communities across the UK, from business and science to youth and fashion.”14 These kinds of action go far beyond the simple act of education. Whether this can truly be put in place in Hong Kong, and whether it will leave as much leeway as possible for the emancipation of the public at large, will be in great part the responsibility of the main funding institution; that is, the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and, behind it, the Hong Kong government itself.

. 1  Available for viewing on the site of the Asia Art Archive, the roundtable was organized at the occasion of ART HK 2012. The speakers were Manuel Borja-Villel Director, Museo Nacional Centro
de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Iftikhar Dadi Associate Professor and Department Chair, Department
of Art, Cornell University, New York; and Marian Pastor Roces, critic and independent curator, The Philippines. The moderator was Reiko Tomii, independent scholar and co-founder of PoNJA-GenKon, New York. This talk was held on May 17, 2012. see http://www.aaa.org.hk/Collection/CollectionOnline/ SpecialCollectionItem/3320/. 
. 2  MAP Office (2010) City-O-Rama, press release for the exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane gallery, November 4–November 20, 2010, www.10chancerylanegallery.com/exhibitions/catalog/2010/ CityORama/press_release/. 
. 3  Ibid. 
. 4  The Works, aired on November 11, 2010, produced by Radio Television Hong Kong. 
. 5  Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steven Corcoran (London: Continuum International Publishing, 1999), 141. 
. 6  Ibid., 141. 
. 7  Ibid., 140. 
. 8  Ibid., 141. 
. 9  Wooferten, http://woofer10.blogspot.hk/. 
. 10  Wooferten, from the Web page of the Yaumatei Self-Rescue Project and Demonstration Exhibition, ymtselfrescue.blogspot.hk. 
. 11  Michel de Certeau, L'Invention du Quotidien, Vol. 1, Arts de Faire (Paris: Union générale d'éditions, 1980) 10–18. 
. 12  Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967), 13. 
. 13  From the Web site of the exhibition Mobile M+, http://www.mobile-mplus.hk/paksheungchuen.html/
. 14  Ricky Burdett, Museums & Galleries: Creative Engagement, 2004, www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/ resources/.